West, Russia clash at UN over Srebrenica

7th July 2015, Comments 0 comments

The UN Security Council pushed back until Wednesday a vote on a draft resolution recognizing the Srebrenica massacre 20 years ago as genocide after Russia threatened to veto the measure.

Russia, the United States and Britain were locked in tough negotiations on the text that condemns the mass killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

A council vote initially scheduled for Tuesday morning was delayed until later that day and then again until Wednesday as negotiators haggled over the use of the word "genocide" to describe the slaughter.

"This has been a difficult negotiation. Discussions have gone right to the wire," said a spokesman for the British mission.

"Given the significance of the anniversary, we're committed to getting the broadest level of support from council members. We hope this delay will allow us to do so."

As Bosnia prepares for somber national commemorations of the 20th anniversary on Saturday, the 15-member council was hoping to adopt a text that would be the first to formally recognize the atrocities as an act of genocide.

Bosnian Serb leaders had called on Russia to use its veto power to block the resolution, arguing that it was "anti-Serb" because it highlighted the killings in the town in the final months of the war.

Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Petr Iliichev had described the measure as "divisive" and focused on just "one part of the conflict."

The disagreement revived divisions from the Balkan wars when Russia sided with ethnic Serbs and Serbia, while western countries supported Bosnian Muslims and Croatia.

The draft resolution has also kicked up a storm in the Balkans, where Bosnian Serb leaders have refused to recognize the Srebrenica massacre as a genocide.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has accused Britain of trying to "register at the UN, on the basis of false declarations and reports, that a genocide was committed against Muslims."

- Dispute over 'genocide' -

Taking aim at what it terms genocide denial, the draft resolution stresses that "acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation."

"Genocide is a crime and those who committed it are criminals who should be punished as such," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft wrote in a letter to Mladen Ivanic, the Serb chairman of the Bosnian presidency.

"To say so is not 'anti-Serbian,' as some have alleged."

Russia had floated its own draft, which Iliichev said was "more reconciling," but the text made no mention of the Srebrenica massacre as an act of genocide and it was not put forward for a vote.

Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic overran the UN-protected safe haven of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995 in what was to become one of the darkest chapters of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Mladic's troops brushed aside the lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers and loaded thousands of Muslim men and boys onto trucks before executing them in a nearby forest and burying them in mass graves.

The international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice have both ruled that the massacre at Srebrenica was a genocide.

The draft resolution welcomes ongoing investigations of the crime and urges UN member states to develop education programs to draw on the lessons of genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

It calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to strengthen genocide prevention efforts at the United Nations.

© 2015 AFP

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